Kiel Center for Philosophy, Politics and Economics (KCPPE)

CSR of small and medium-sized enterprises in Schleswig-Holstein


  • Project description

The research project carried out a comprehensive survey and analysis of the social and ecological responsibility (Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Schleswig-Holstein. By means of a representative quantitative survey, companies were asked about their social commitment.
In addition to the institutional involvement of companies in political processes, in self-governing bodies and social partnerships as well as participation in the social security system, companies in Germany are traditionally involved in many ways with the local community and in areas such as environmental protection and development cooperation. The research project thus focuses on companies as one of the key forces shaping our society.

In Schleswig-Holstein, this formative role of companies and their commitment to sustainability can be clearly seen and contributes significantly to the attractiveness and development of Schleswig-Holstein as a business location.
SMEs and their specific significance for German society have been largely neglected in the academic debate on CSR to date. The special commitment of SMEs also receives little attention in debates on the responsibility of companies and the shaping of our society. The research project tries to fill this void by comprehensively analyzing the diverse activities of SMEs in Schleswig-Holstein for the first time, identifying existing challenges for companies and contributing to a systematic development of the potential of entrepreneurial commitment.
The complete report can be downloaded here:
Research Report (German)

Selected results of the study


  • Area of responsibility: Society

The social commitment of small and medium-sized enterprises in Schleswig-Holstein takes place mainly locally, i.e. in the municipality and the state of Schleswig-Holstein. This demonstrates the important importance of SMEs for a diverse and lively community.


  • Area of responsibility: Human Resources

The importance of employees as human capital of SMEs is also reflected in their CSR activities. It is interesting to note that CSR is seen as an instrument for increasing employee motivation, but not as an instrument for recruiting employees. There is an untapped potential here to understand CSR as an answer to the shortage of skilled workers.


  • Area of responsibility: Environment

The topics of ecology and environmental protection are also highly relevant for SMEs in Schleswig-Holstein. "Energy efficiency and energy saving" as well as "environmental protection and nature conservation" are rated as important and very important by almost 80% of the companies surveyed.


  • Framework conditions

With regard to the goals of CSR, both aspects of the business case, i.e. the entrepreneurial benefit of the commitment, and the management's own ethical convictions become clear. Measures to promote CSR among SMEs have been identified, particularly with regard to the provision of information (e.g. in the area of CSR communication standards or forms of engagement) and the networking of committed companies.
Only half of the SMEs questioned have fixed personnel responsibilities for CSR and it is therefore much more difficult to generate the necessary know-how, especially in the case of standardized CSR activities. This is compensated by two aspects, among others: Firstly, it became clear that employees are being used as a central resource for CSR - both as a source of ideas and in implementation. Secondly, SMEs in Schleswig-Holstein make extensive use of a local network. More than 70% of SMEs also know other committed companies in their area.
In the study it became clear that in particular organization-related factors are seen as a hindrance to the implementation of CSR. These include in particular the lack of time (75%), personnel (67%) and financial (63%) resources. In contrast, around three-quarters of the companies questioned state that more government support would also promote CSR. At the same time, the overall good economic situation of SMEs in Schleswig-Holstein - 89% of SMEs rate it as good or very good - appears to be a further factor promoting the wide range of CSR activities. Nearly 67% of companies state that CSR activities require an economically healthy company.


  • Funding and project duration

State Chancellery Schleswig-Holstein, March 2017 to February 2018

  • Project Team

Project management: Prof. Dr. Ludger Heidbrink and Dr. Alexander Lorch
Research Assistant: Martin Kunze
Student employees: Fenja Wiechel-Kramüller and Nicolas Weisensel

  • Lectures and Publications

- Kunze, Martin / Lorch, Alexander (2018): Gesellschaftliche und Ökologische Verantwortung von kleinen und mittleren Unternehmen (KMU) in Schleswig-Holstein. Ergebnisbericht, Kiel.

- Kunze, Martin „Nachhaltigkeit in Schleswig-Holstein. Zur Bedeutung von kleinen und mittleren Unternehmen”, Tag des Norddeutschen Handels, Lübeck, 26. September 2017